A camp in western Saratoga County where boys have learned the ropes of scouting for nearly a century will close after this summer.
The Twin Rivers Council of the Boy Scouts of America is looking to sell the 300-acre Camp Boyhaven, which started as a much smaller piece of land in Milton when it was first used as a Boy Scout camp in 1924.
“It’s sad,” said Richard Stockton, scout executive and CEO of the council. “This is not a decision that’s being made easily … There’s lots of memories and love and care that’s been put into this facility for close to 100 years.”
Stockton said the camp is being closed because attendance and usage is down and because resources needed to keep it maintained and running are limited. Those resources include money and volunteers.
“Were trying to maintain three dining halls, three water system, three rifle ranges,” he said, referring also to the council’s two other camps — Rotary Scout Reservation in Averill Park and Camp Wokpominee in Fort Ann.
Stockton said the sale will provide for more funds to be invested in the other camps, allowing for new programs and the replacement of aging infrastructure that, in some cases, is 75 years old. He expects young Scouts who now go to Boyhaven to frequent the camps in Averill Park and Fort Ann instead.
The council will be accepting proposals from potential buyers through May 31; the request went out April 15.
“This is going to allow us to take the proceeds form any sale of Boyhaven, if it’s approved by the board, put them in an account and be able to use the interest to help us make sure the other camps are maintained at the highest possible level,” Stockton said. “It’s going to be a gift to the council that will always be there.”
Historically a camp for Boy Scouts, Camp Boyhaven became a camp for Cub Scouts and Webelos in 1991 when the Schenectady Council merged with the Twin Rivers Council, forming a district that reaches up to the Canadian border.
Boyhaven stopped hosting overnight Cub Scout and Webelos camping programs, which once drew as many as 1,300 Cub Scouts and Webelos in the summertime, after the summer of 2015, with the council saying participation numbers had been cut in half. The overnight programs were moved to Camp Wakpominee.
The sites were still being rented out by scouting families on the weekends, an option that will end May 31 when rentals close at all of the council’s camps every year. The camp was also hosting family and day camps for young scouts, as well as Boy Scout activities like the midwinter Klondike derby.
The family camping program, which runs three weekends in June and July, will be offered this summer before the camp closes in the fall, Stockton said. A farewell celebration at Boyhaven is being planned for September.
Drew Chesney, Boyhaven’s former camp director who is coordinating the event, said usage of the camp’s cabins, spread across about two-dozen sites, has dropped to 30 percent in recent years.
“It’s just unsustainable to put all the effort and finances into a property when it’s not being used one-third of the time,” he said.
Stockton attributed the decline to a drop-off in participation in scouts and more municipal recreation departments offering their own day-camp programs.
Volunteers at Boyhaven have dwindled to “six to eight people who have truly supported the camp,” Chesney said, “and honestly, it takes two to three times that in active support to even give consideration of having a good volunteer base, and we just don’t have it.”
Chesney, 35, of Rotterdam, started as a counselor at the camp when he was 17 and has volunteered there ever since. He served as camp director for eight years and is currently the property’s chairman.
“It has been an integral part of the program, especially in Schenectady County, since 1924,” he said. “It’s been a huge part of people’s lives.”
Chesney said anyone who has lived in the county and has been involved in scouts has memories of Boyhaven, “but it’s not just the property that was integral to those memories.”
“It was the people that supported those kids, and it was the program that they were delivered — not just the piece of property they were standing on,” he said.
Milton Supervisor Dan Lewza said the camp has been a great asset to the town.
“A lot of young people have been able to gain a lot of knowledge on how to live the right way and how to treat your community, and it all happened out there,” he said.
The supervisor said he wants to see the property preserved as parkland but that it’s too expensive for the town to purchase on its own. The land is located along the Kayaderosseras Creek between Rock City Falls and Middle Grove.
“There’s a lot of different things that can happen with it,” Lewza said. “Maybe the town will be looking to buy some of it, maybe we can work something out with the state. The object is to really leave that as an open space for fishing and camping.”
Lewza said he believed the council was asking for $1 million for the land. Stockton, however, said the council has not named an asking price.
“We’re asking for offers,” Stockton said. “I’m not sure why the town doesn’t think they can bid because we have not put a number down.”
Asked if the council would give preference to proposals that involve preserving the land, he said, “That will be up to the board.”
“I’m sure there will be board members that it will matter to.”
Camp Boyhaven started as Schenectady County’s Boy Scout camp at a time when every county in the state had one, Stockton said. “Because people were riding the trolley and they were in Model Ts, they needed to have a lot of camps. People didn’t drive from Albany to Plattsburgh.”
With innovations like the Northway and smartphones, the Twin Rivers Council can serve more children at its other camps, he said, “and do it in a more cost effective and economical way.”
“Even 25 years ago, the Department of Health didn’t have have the regulations they do now at summer camps,” he said. “Our dining halls are run like restaurants.”
He emphasized that proceeds from the sale of Boyhaven would be reinvested in scouting and scouting alone.
“It’s not to pay any debts, it’s not to pay staff and it’s not for any purpose but to help our camps be bigger and better,” he said.